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Benefit Fraud - Acquittal in Fraud Against Legal Aid Fund

Our Specialist Benefit Fraud Solicitors were instructed to represent a woman charged with 4 counts of Benefit Fraud and one count of Fraud against the Legal Aid Agency.  It was alleged that our client had made an application for DWP benefits (income support and housing benefit) to which she was not entitled. That she had made an application for Legal Aid (state funded legal representation) by under-declaring her assets and her value and that she was in fact not eligible for such public funding.

The prosecution

This prosecution was based on the fact that our client was the owner of a property in London, of which the equity took her significantly over the capital reserves criteria prescribed for the eligibility of benefits and for legal aid.  It was the prosecution’s case that our client’s property was valued in excess of £250,000.00 and that our client had deliberately failed to disclose this information, had deliberately made False Representations on application forms and thereby benefited from the Fraud (leading to the inevitable instigation of Confiscation Proceedings).

The defence

Our Benefit Fraud Solicitors disputed the criteria applied by the prosecution in calculating the equity and capital reserves. From our investigations, it was apparent that our client’s property was in negative equity and as such she had an underlying entitlement to State Benefits and to Legal Aid.  Lengthy representations were made pointing out the deficiencies in the prosecution’s case and inviting them to review their case in light of our representations and the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

Our Benefit Fraud Solicitors have an ethos of 'early-engagement' and trying to resolve cases outside court, without Court Proceedings where possible. In this instance, the prosecution remained steadfast on their mistaken belief as to the strength of their case. Thus, the case remained set for Court.

The matter was called in for trial and having reviewed all the evidence and our arguments again, the prosecution sought and obtained an adjournment on the basis that their case was deficient and did not meet the criteria that 'there was a realistic prospect of a successful prosecution'.  

On the second trial listing, the prosecution accepted that they could not make their case. Equally, the Legal Aid Agency accepted that there was no basis for their prosecution to continue against our client and accordingly offered no evidence.  

Thus our client was formally acquitted of all Benefit Fraud Charges.